HONORS FOR GEORGE CARLIN
The Video Software Dealers Association has decided to honor George Carlin with its first Freedom of Expression award, to be presented at the VSDA's 2002 convention in Las Vegas in July.
The trade group will actually honor Carlin more or less in perpetuity, by naming the award the George Carlin Freedom of Expression award for all future honorees.
"There could be no finer honoree for an award championing the fight to retain freedom of speech and creative expression than the incomparable George Carlin," said VSDA President Bo Andersen. "His commitment, in the face of the most severe censorship efforts, to express his uniquely entertaining world view to hundreds of millions around the world has enriched us with more than 40 years of laughter and awareness."
Carlin is perhaps best known for a routine called "Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television." He has released 14 comedy albums. Ten were nominated for Grammys, and three -- "Braindroppings," "Jammin' in New York" and "FM And AM" -- won Grammys.
"Braindroppings" was based on his best-selling 1997 book of the same name. Carlin wrote another bestseller, "Napalm & Silly Putty" in 2001.
The VSDA announced last week it will honor Sylvester Stallone as its Action Star of the Millennium.
WINSLET IN 'PETER PAN' PROJECT?
According to a report in Daily Variety, Kate Winslet ("Iris," "Titanic") is in talks to co-star with Johnny Depp ("Blow," "Sleepy Hollow") in "Neverland" -- a screen adaptation of the Allan Knee play "The Man Who Was Peter Pan."
It's an account of author J.M. Barrie's creation of "Peter Pan" after befriending four fatherless boys and their mother in late-19th century London. The movie is being directed by Marc Forster ("Monster's Ball").
'RAYMOND' STAR WILL TAKE ON GLEASON
Brad Garrett -- not Mark Addy -- will play Jackie Gleason in "The Great One," a CBS TV movie covering the life of the entertainment legend during the years leading up to and including his breakthrough performance as Ralph Kramden in "The Honeymooners."
Addy ("The Full Monty," "A Knight's Tale") had been set to play Gleason, but producers said he had to leave the project because of scheduling conflicts. Filming is expected to begin in late June or early July.
Garrett was nominated for an Emmy for outstanding supporting actor in a comedy series in 2000 for his performance as Robert Barone on the hit CBS comedy "Everybody Loves Raymond."
Johnny Carson has kept pretty much to himself since he retired 10 years ago as host of NBC's "Tonight" show, but he made an exception recently and gave an interview to Esquire magazine.
The former king of late-night comedy said he put the show behind him at the right time, but he has bad dreams once in a while that he's still behind the desk.
"It's frightening, because I'm not prepared," said Carson. "It's show time, and I'm going on -- and I've got nothing to say! Jesus! I wake up in a sweat."
Carson turned down a personal appeal from NBC boss Bob Wright to participate in the network's May sweeps 75th anniversary celebration -- even though he regards Wright as a personal friend.
"He means well. I know NBC means well," said Carson. "But I am retired. I ain't going back on television. There's no need for me to go back. It's gonna be one of those self-congratulatory things. Look how good we are! I'm just not going to do it!"
At 76, Carson remains content with his decision to retire when he did.
"You've got to know when to get the hell off the stage," he said, "and the timing was right for me."
Carson admits there was one period when he sort of wished he were still doing late-night comedy -- the White House intern scandal, starring former president Clinton and Monica Lewinsky. He said he called Wright to say it was enough to make him regret retiring.
"I haven't seen such an abundance of material in my life! This is just unbelievable," Carson recalled telling Wright. "It's almost funnier than any jokes you could make."
OLD HOME WEEK AT 'ALLY'
Taking a page from "The X-Files" series finale -- which will feature original cast member David Duchovny -- the "Ally McBeal" series finale on May 20 will feature three players who left the show along the way.
That includes Gil Bellows, who played Ally's colleague and lover Billy. When Bellows left the series, the character was killed off, but Billy has appeared a few times since then as a ghost.
Courtney Thorne-Smith will return for the finale as Billy's wife Georgia, and Lisa Nicole Carson will be back as Ally's roommate Renee.
DIESEL STEERING CLEAR OF 'FAST/FURIOUS' SEQUEL?
Vin Diesel will not be along for the ride when Universal films the sequel to last summer's surprise hit "The Fast and the Furious."
Diesel's fee went up substantially after the street-racing picture grossed $145 million at the U.S. box office. There has been speculation that the studio was not prepared to meet Diesel's price, but a spokesman for the beefy actor was quoted as saying that the decision had more to do with Diesel's prior commitment to star in a sequel to his 2000 sci-fi picture "Pitch Black."
The casting development also means that Rob Cohen, who directed "The Fast and the Furious," will not be on board for the sequel either -- since he had always said he would only make the picture with Diesel. Cohen and Diesel are teamed up for the upcoming action picture "XXX," in which Diesel plays an Xtreme secret agent.
"The Fast and the Furious 2" will probably be built around the character Paul Walker played in the original -- an undercover cop who infiltrates the Los Angeles street racing scene to bust a hijacking ring.